Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 2005;31(1):3-14    pdf


Different mechanisms to explain the reversed effects of mental health on work characteristics

by de Lange AH, Taris TW, Kompier MAJ, Houtman ILD, Bongers PM

Objectives The number of longitudinal studies reporting evidence for reversed effects of strain on work is growing, but evidence regarding the mechanisms underlying such effects is scarce. In this study, earlier longitudinal findings were reviewed, and the following four mechanisms for reversed effects were proposed that reflect within-person or environmental changes: (i) the rosy perception mechanism, (ii) the gloomy perception mechanism, (iii) the upward selection mechanism, and (iv) the drift mechanism.

Methods These mechanisms were tested using structural equation modeling and longitudinal data from a Dutch four-phase study (N=1588 participants).

Results The results revealed that work characteristics and mental health influenced each other reciprocally and longitudinally. The reversed effects were examined in more detail, and it was found that these could be accounted for by both within-person and environmental change mechanisms. The rosy perception mechanism was found to explain the positive effects from health on job demands; the upward selection mechanism explained the positive (environmental) effects from health on job control; the gloomy perception mechanism explained the reversed (evaluation) effects from health on supervisory social support. No support was found for the drift mechanism.

Conclusions Mechanisms that may explain reversed causation are yet poorly understood. The main contribution of the present study lies in the fact that it proposes (i) a conceptual framework with which to analyze the effects of health on work characteristics and (ii) methods for testing these mechanisms. The study revealed that there is good reason to pursue research on reversed causality.